THIS Friday, the nation will find out if Lands Minister, Jean Kapata, is a woman of her word or not.

Last week, Ms Kapata issued a warning to property owners in Lusaka to demolish any structures that encroach on road reserves and gave a 7-day ultimatum within which the exercise was to be done.

The warning may have been directed at Lusaka residents, but should serve as a warning to the rest of the country.

The minister was categorical in her warning. If  property owners do not demolish encroachments on road reserves, then Government would move in and demolish all such structures.

The message was loud and clear. Demolish or Government will come and demolish the structures encroaching on roads.

This move is obviously meant to bring sanity to a sector that has gained notoriety because of some property owners’ penchant for illegal expansions.

People want to build on drainages and encroach on roads to such an extent that pedestrians are left with little space to walk on.  Indeed, on some roads of Lusaka’s Emmasdale area, even motorists find it difficult to u-turn or give way, all because fences have been built too close to roads.

In most of these cases, property owners claim to have sought council authority to extend their wall fences.  However, one  does not need to be a legal expert to know that when a structure is built on top of a sewer line on indeed extended onto a road, it is an infringement. It is illegal.

Matero Member of Parliament Lloyd Kaziya has reiterated Government’s decision to demolish illegal structures encroaching on roads if property owners do not do so. This again is a reminder to the people in his constituency to take the warning seriously.

People ought to realise there is no compensation when an illegal structure is demolished because it was put up in the wrong place. Some developers, in complicity with council officials, have defied the law by continuously putting up illegal structures in the city.

For instance, it is difficult to fathom where some developers get the courage to defy not only logic but the law, by putting up a structure in front of a military medical school.

One would have expected the Ministry of Defence to have objected to the Emmasdale structure put up in such a way that the military medical school has no access to the road.

Such a project should have been nipped in the bud. But alas, the developer was allowed to continue and adamantly refused to listen to anyone criticising the blocking of a road reserve.

As Mr Kaziya puts it, there are many residents in his constituency that have thrown caution to the wind and built structures anywhere they deemed fit for as long the council “authorised.”

We know that councils have serious problems when it comes to land administration and it is no wonder that in the case of Ndola and Kabwe, their land administration agencies were revoked. The Kabwe Municipal Council has since had their agency restored.

We feel that Lusaka City Council needs to stop the illegal issuance of land on road reserves to save the city from turning into a slam of illegal structures.

In-fills can be given out to developers, but not road reserves which we understand fall under the Ministry of Infrastructure. The council should at all times refer such claims for land  by residents to the city planning department to ensure that decisions made are based on law.

As it is, some residents stand to lose when government sets bulldozers in motion to demolition all properties encroaching on road reserves.

And it is our hope that Ms Kapata meant what she said and was not making empty threats.

Ministers should do what they promise to do if at all they want people to take Government seriously. Lip-service is useless when Government wants to correct a wrong.

When people get used to leaders making empty threats, they will disregard authority at will.

We are waiting for the 7-day ultimatum to expire this Friday and hoping to see bulldozers at work.

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